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Planners give thumbs up to Lincoln casino plans

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WarHorse Gaming, Lincoln

Once complete, WarHorse Gaming expects its new casino at the Lincoln Race Course to be a boon for horse racing and the local economy.

A proposed casino in southwest Lincoln has taken the first step toward becoming a reality.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously recommended approval of zoning changes to the site near U.S. 77 and West Denton Road.

The land is currently covered by a planned use development designation that was approved in 2006, when the area was proposed to be a large shopping center with Walmart as an anchor tenant. However, those plans fell apart, and part of the site instead developed into the Lincoln Race Course, a horse racing and simulcast facility.

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But now that development will be taking off with the planned WarHorse Casino, the planned use development needs to be amended to accommodate different uses.

The existing planned use development calls for 1.3 million square feet of commercial space. That would be reduced to 980,000, which includes the roughly 225,000-square-foot casino.

The amended planned use development also would include the potential for 650 hotel rooms and up to 700 dwelling units.

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The planned use development actually covers five lots with five different owners, and the only lot with known development plans is the one where the casino and hotel is proposed.

The casino would have more than 1,200 gaming stations, a convention/event space, several restaurants and other amenities such as a spa. A 200-room hotel up to 100 feet tall also is planned, as is a three-story parking garage. WarHorse Gaming, a subsidiary of the Winnebago Tribe's Ho-Chunk Inc., and the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association are partnering on the $200 million project and hope to start construction on it next year.

Other potential development in the area could include apartments, at least one other hotel and service-type commercial uses such as a convenience store and additional restaurants.

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Lynne McNally, executive vice president of the Horsemen's group, said there will be 500 to 600 new employees hired for the casino and associated businesses, and she said uses such as apartments and convenience stores would serve that population.

McNally said she has spoken to the other property owners in the area, "and I do think that we're going to have very cooperative and conducive uses."

The zoning change is tentatively scheduled to go before the City Council on April 5.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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